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State of NBA hard to believe

On Sports
by: mcmillan

Poking around on a number of subjects … • Hard to believe that if not for the NBA lockout, the Trail Blazers would be traveling to Salt Lake City to play Utah on Friday in what would have been the fifth of seven preseason games for the local club.

The regular-season opener was to be Nov. 3 at home against Denver in a game televised by TNT.

Tuesday's session with mediator George Cohen - he was involved with NBA talks between owners and the players union back in 1994 - seemed the final hope to avert shutdown of the entire 2011-12 season.

That it has reached such an impasse is primarily attributable to union chief Billy Hunter and such veterans as Kevin Garnett. The latter's influence was considerable in speaking out to younger players against accepting the league's offer that, at one point, included a 50-50 split of basketball-related income.

To call it a mistake on the players' side would be a considerable understatement.

• The league's gag order on team personnel has reached laughable proportions.

When I called Nate McMillan to ask some rather innocuous questions about what he and his staff were doing during the lockout, the Trail Blazer coach declined comment.

'I can't talk about that,' he said. 'I was told by the organization, until we reach (a labor) agreement, to talk about what we're doing as far as preparation, we should stay away from that.'

Sources tell me McMillan has held several sessions with his coaches in Portland since Labor Day, but staff members are not currently in the city. McMillan did attend Oregon's football practice in Eugene on Tuesday, presumably looking for pointers about how to run a fastbreak offense.

A call to team President Larry Miller was answered by a media-relations rep, who said Miller was attending league board meetings in New York and wouldn't be available.

Seems like the team's fans deserve better than that.

• Postgame antics have drawn a lot of attention in the past week.

First there was Oregon's Chip Kelly, turning around to yell at celebrating UO students cavorting after the Ducks' win over Arizona State, 'Hey, will you shut up?' as he conducted an interview with ESPN's Erin Andrews.

A chivalrous move, indeed, by the Chipster. Loved the way the revelers about-faced and hurried off with their tails between their legs, as if grade-schoolers chastened by the headmaster.

Then there was Jim Harbaugh's gleefully hard handshake and slap on the back of Jim Schwartz after the 49ers' win over the Lions, sending the Detroit coach into a rage that turned into a scene of silliness.

Harbaugh - undeniably a heck of a coach - is the kind of guy who could rub an opponent the wrong way with his borderline arrogance.

Asked about the incident Tuesday, Oregon State's Mike Riley - who coached Harbaugh during his playing days when Riley was head coach of the San Diego Chargers - said he 'wasn't surprised.'

Then Riley commented on the long-held custom of coaches meeting at midfield to shake hands after games.

'I don't mind it, but it's a funny tradition,' Riley said. 'There's a lot of emotion built up through the course of a week. Somebody's really happy and somebody's mad or down.

'If you were inventing the game today, I don't know if you'd include that as protocol. It's always kind of dangerous.'

And kind of meaningless.

• What a shame that Portland State's Cory McCaffrey, who leads the nation's Division I-AA ranks in scoring and is second in rushing, is probably lost for the season with an apparent torn Achilles' tendon.

The senior from Sisters High has been an amazing success story, relegated to a receiver role in the run-and-shoot system under Jerry Glanville and Mouse Davis, only to be born again as a tailback in Nigel Burton's pistol attack.

McCaffrey deserves a more fitting finale than to be helped off a field in Missoula, Mont.